Learn Korean: Part 1 - Asian Languages and Language Families

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So, you have always been fascinated by Asian culture have you? Maybe you are someone who loves the martial arts; kung fu, tae-kwon-do, or karate. Perhaps you are interested in the cool oriental stores and like to buy many things from them to decorate your house. Maybe you like the peaceful society you see depicted in some Asian films. Or maybe you are just incredibly in love with the Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Whatever your interest is in Asia and its society, it could never hurt to know a little bit about the culture. In fact, learning about something more than is shown in action movies and your Korean dramas can be quite beneficial.

My experience is with Korean culture and Korean language, but the culture is similar in most Asian countries.

Language Families

One of the main things you may have noticed is how incredibly different the Asian languages are from English. You come across languages such as Italian, Spanish, and French, and you can at least find some similarities in those languages and English. Yet there seem to be none between English and Asian languages! The fact is they just come from different language families. Most European languages will fall in the same language family as English. Many of these are in the Indo-European language families. Words will be similar between all of the languages that come from the same family.

Asian languages such as Japanese and Korean are in the same language family, the Altaic family. You will find many similarites in these two languages. Mandarin Chinese comes from the Sino-Tibetan family.

Altaic Family

The Altaic family is named after the Alti Mountains. They are located in Central Asia. The Altaic Family consists of Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, and Japanese. Out of these, Turkish is the most western of the languages, while Korean and Japanese are more eastern.

Sino-Tibetan Family

The Sino-Tibetan Family consists of Mandarin Chinese. Languages in this language family are made up of one syllable words, but there are MANY. There is no simple alphabet to form these words, which causes the vast number of Chinese characters, making it one of the hardest languages to learn. You also must learn to speak, read, and write all separately. There is no reading a word and being able to speak it, nor can you hear one and guess on how it is spelled. Writing is still completely on it's own even if you can read, because you have to use proper stroke orders! Very time consuming to learn.

There are also several tones in these languages. A change in pitch while saying a word could change the meaning of the word completely. It makes the language sound very pretty when spoken, but is incredibly difficult to learn!

Sentence Structure

As with many Asian languages, a common fact you will notice is many of the languages follow an SOV sentence structure. That is, Subject, Object, Verb. English tends to place the verb after the subject of the sentence. Asian languages place the verb at the very end of the sentence. The most important part of the sentence is saved for last :) Don't we all save the best for last?

Although much of the culture evolves around the language, there is plenty more to culture. Korean culture is amazing in every way. Look forward to future articles covering Korean culture! is a site based on teaching the Korean language. It also provides details on Korean culture, Korean foods, Korean recipes, Korean music, everything Korean!

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